Pittsburgh Penguins

How Patrick Marleau's four-goal period connected him to Mario Lemieux

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AP

How Patrick Marleau's four-goal period connected him to Mario Lemieux

Programming note: Watch the re-air of Patrick Marleau's four-goal third period in the Sharks' 2017 win over the Colorado Avalanche tonight at 8 p.m. PT on NBC Sports California.

When Tomas Hertl scored four goals in his third career game, he became the third-youngest player in NHL history to accomplish the feat. When Patrick Marleau matched him three seasons later, the Sharks' all-time leader in goals, points and games played became the second-oldest in league history to do it, and the eldest ever to notch four goals in a win.

As of now, there have been 280 separate instances throughout NHL history in which a player has scored four goals in a single game. Of those 280, only 12 times has a player scored all four goals in a single period. Marleau was the 12th to add his name to that impressive list on Jan. 23, 2017 and the first to do it in almost precisely two decades.

Before Marleau scored four times against the Colorado Avalanche in the third period of San Jose's 5-2 victory that night -- including the first three in a span of 7:42 -- Pittsburgh Penguins Hall of Famer and co-owner/chairman Mario Lemieux was the most recent to do it, having scored four -- also in the third period of an eventual 5-2 win -- against the Montreal Canadiens back on Jan. 26, 1997. Lemieux, of course, recently acquired Marleau at the NHL trade deadline.

After Brent Burns got the Sharks on the board in the first period, Marleau provided all of the offense from that point on, and did so in a variety of ways.

His first goal came by way of a deflection. The second, on a wrap-around. For his natural hat trick, Marleau finished off a perfectly executed 2-on-1, and to etch his name in the record books, he capitalized on a breakaway.

Don't remember? Don't worry.

Tonight at 8 p.m., Marleau's standout performance -- in which he ended up with his fifth career regular-season hat trick, and moved within three goals of 500 -- will be re-aired on NBC Sports California. He has failed to score three goals -- much less four -- in any game since, but now sits at 562 career goals, which ranks 25th all time in NHL history.

Much as Marleau's return to the Sharks at the beginning of the current season provided San Jose and its fans with a much-needed feel-good development, so too can the re-airing of his memorable game be seen in the same light. With the NHL season currently paused due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we can all use a reminder of happier times right now.

[RELATED: Sharks' Kane keeping busy by working on EK9 clothing line]

Watching arguably the most beloved player in Sharks franchise history do something that might never be topped?

Yeah, that'll do.

How Patrick Marleau leaving Sharks before helps Penguins transition

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USATSI

How Patrick Marleau leaving Sharks before helps Penguins transition

Patrick Marleau had already done the emotional goodbye before he left the Sharks at the trade deadline. 

Marleau signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent in 2017, signing a three-year contract with the "Original Six" club to leave San Jose, the only NHL city he'd ever known. When he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins ahead of this year's trade deadline, Marleau found adjusting to a new locker room much easier the second time around.

"I think what it really helped was with that anxiety or nervousness when you first come to a new team," Marleau told The Athletic's Rob Rossi on Wednesday. "You try to get over that really quickly. You know it’s eventually gonna work out. So, I think doing it before helped me a little bit fit into this room."

The 40-year-old was unsigned at the start of the regular season after an offseason trade to -- and subsequent buyout by -- the Carolina Hurricanes. Marleau officially signed with the Sharks on Oct. 8, scoring a pair of goals in his first game back with San Jose. 

He added eight more -- and 10 assists -- in 57 additional games with the Sharks, serving as a solid depth forward for a struggling team largely devoid of them. The Sharks, facing the steepest of uphill climbs into an unlikely playoff berth, traded Marleau to the Penguins so he could pursue his first Stanley Cup ring. Marleau has an assist in his first four games with Penguins, and Pittsburgh picked up its first win with him Tuesday against the Ottawa Senators. 

[RELATED: Sharks reportedly lock up Simek, agree to contract extension]

Though Marleau had previously left San Jose, he'd never joined a team midseason before his trade last month. The 22-year NHL veteran said joining a group led by three-time Stanley Cup winners Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin made the transition even smoother.

"What helps is these guys are really good," Marleau said. "But you know it’s important to be in a good position going into the playoffs. That’s where the focus has to be. Coming in, I’m just trying to do my thing and help as much as I can. But it’s definitely great to be with a group that always has that goal. They know what they’re looking for and playing for here in Pittsburgh. It was kind of tough being on the outside looking in (at the playoff chase) for so many nights. It wasn’t something I was used to. That chase is obviously important to me."

Marleau's hope this season was to win a Cup with the Sharks, but now he gets a chance with the Penguins. He told reporters in San Jose last week that he thought "maybe the door is open for me to come back" to the Sharks for another season. That transition shouldn't be difficult, either, as Marleau already has done the emotional return, too.

Sharks, Evander Kane reminding NHL who they are during winning streak

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AP

Sharks, Evander Kane reminding NHL who they are during winning streak

The Sharks are riding their first three-game winning streak since before Thanksgiving, and Evander Kane is a major reason why.

In Thursday's 3-2 overtime win over the New Jersey Devils, he had the primary assist on Logan Couture's game-winning goal.

In Saturday's 5-0 blowout victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, Kane got the scoring barrage started with the game's opening goal.

Then, in Tuesday's impressive 5-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, he opened the scoring once again, and added an insurance marker in the third period for good measure.

The standings might not reflect it, but as Kane and San Jose have proven over the first three games of its current undefeated homestand, it would be unwise to overlook the Sharks on the schedule.

"We obviously haven't had the type of success we wanted this year for whatever reason, but you look at us on paper, even with some of the guys we have out of our lineup, we're a pretty darn good team," Kane said after the win over Toronto. "On paper. We've just got to put it together. We've had a lot of success over the years here, and we just want to finish the year off on a strong note and put a little reminder out that we're still the San Jose Sharks and we're going to be tough to beat every night."

Outside of an awful first period against the Devils, the Sharks have lived up to Kane's words. They've outscored their opponents 13-4 over the last three games, and scored nine unanswered goals stretching from the second period of the win over New Jersey through the first period of Tuesday's victory.

While the lowly Devils aren't a playoff team, both the Penguins and Maple Leafs are very likely to qualify for the postseason and would have to be considered two of the more talented teams in the league. Despite missing several key players, San Jose has taken each of their best punches, and then delivered significant blows to both.

"I think we've kind of made up our minds as a group, as players, that we want to -- I said it the other game -- ruin some seasons for some teams and be as destructive as we possibly can down the stretch," Kane explained.

The Sharks don't have a playoff berth to realistically fight for, but they don't lack for motivation. From a team perspective, in addition to playing the role of spoiler, San Jose has 16 more regular-season games with which to generate momentum for next season. And there are individual motivations, too. Some players are trying to prove they belong at the NHL level, while others, like goaltender Martin Jones, are hoping to more permanently establish themselves in the lineup.

Jones, who has started all three wins on the homestand, appears to be finding a groove and is currently playing as well as he has all season.

[RELATED: Jones seizing control of Sharks' ongoing goalie competition]

"When he's on the top of his game like he has been these last three, we're a real hard team to beat," Kane said of Jones. "We're going to make mistakes, and when he can bail us out, and when we can give him some run support, too -- which we haven't done a good job of this year -- we're a top team in the league. We just haven't shown it this year consistently enough."

Indeed, it's quite likely too little, too late for San Jose. The combination of injuries to key players and sheer bad luck created a hole that the team doesn't appear to have enough remaining time to dig out of. Too often this season did San Jose not look anything like the Sharks we're used to.

Lately, though, they're remembering who they are.